At its core, the ancient wellness system of Ayurveda is essentially about living in harmony with both inner and outer nature. By “inner nature” I mean the combination of the three doshas—Vata, Pitta, and Kapha—that we are born with and that help determine our unique constitution. I also include the particular physiological systems that house all the biological, microbiological, and molecular functions in our bodies. These include the skeletal, nervous, circulatory, respiratory, and other bodily systems along with all of their components.
Outer nature, on the other hand, consists of the ways we are connected to the outside world. For Ayurveda, there is no such thing as an isolated human unconnected to anything else. We are related to external nature in many ways: to the sun that warms us, the air we breathe, the liquids we drink, and the food out there on the dinner plate that will soon be inside our body. Many of these outside relationships are beneficial, but the world also includes dangers such as tornadoes, tigers, and debilitating viruses. In addition, many beneficial things can become hazards if we are not careful. The sun not only warms, it can also burn us if we are exposed to it too long. The air we breathe can be pure and healthy, or it can be dirty and loaded with lung-challenging chemicals. No doubt you can think of many other examples.
We must try our best to coexist in harmony with this double-edged universe. For Ayurveda—the wisdom of healthy living—it is paramount to understand how outer nature affects our inner nature. Which foods energize our bodies, which clog our arteries? Which herbs sharpen our minds, which dull our senses? With these understandings, we are much better able to balance inner with outer nature.
But here’s the problem: over thousands of years Ayurveda and other nature-focused wellness systems developed much wisdom about living in harmony with nature, but today this knowledge has been forgotten by many. For millions today, especially those in urban environments, nature can seem foreign and far away. Yet the truth is, we are still the children of nature no matter where we live. The air we breathe, every bit of food we eat, and the viruses that can lay us low are all part of the natural world. Ayurveda instructs us to respect our place in outer nature and understand how to work in harmony with it. To try to create health in our inner nature without working in harmony with outer nature is like trying to create friendship without kindness. It just can’t be done.
For more information, please read my book: The Soul of Wellness.